How to Stop Worrying About Everyone Else\'s Happiness

When I ask people what stops them from being happy, one of the answers I hear most frequently is that it is hard to stop taking responsibility for other people’s stuff. That seems to be one of the things we know we should do but can’t quite figure out how to actually do in real life.

How do you stop worrying about whether your friends and family are happy?

How do you stop paying attention to your husband’s mood?

How do you stop offering to help when you can clearly see that people you love are lost?

how to stop worrying about everyone else's happiness

You have to believe that they have everything they need to be happy.

We all do. You might already know that you have the power to make yourself happy, but it’s harder sometimes to see that same power in other people, especially if they haven’t recognized it yet in themselves. But they do have it. It’s there. We are all born with exactly what we need to be happy.

You have to trust that they can figure out happiness on their own.

Maybe you believe that they have what they need, but you worry because they don’t seem to be using what they’ve been given.

Most of us go through that, too.

Remember? Remember when you were wandering around in the dark, and how you somehow stumbled on the light switch, seemingly by total accident and chance? Maybe you know now that it wasn’t chance, that you were always meant to find the light. They are meant to find the switch, too. In time. And it will probably seem like an accident when it happens, but you’ll both know better.

And when they do figure it out, they will have earned all of the pride and gratitude they feel. They will be confident in their happiness, because they found it in their own time and in their own way.

You have to trust yourself to be OK if they never figure it out.

Not everyone dies happy. That’s a horrible truth. Another truth is that not everyone’s happiness looks the same, so maybe your friend is just fine and that’s good enough for them. Let that be enough for you.

Respect them enough to believe that they know better than you what their own happiness looks like.

Respect yourself enough to know that you will be OK even if they are not.

That part isn’t easy. It hurts like hell to watch people you love suffer. It hurts to watch them twist themselves up in knots. It’s hard to be angry at the same person you’re sad for. But every morning you get up and put your shoes on, not theirs. And that’s OK.

You can choose to be OK no matter what.

That doesn’t make you a bad person who doesn’t care. That makes you a valued ally who has confidence even when someone looks like a mess. Do you remember how precious those people were to you when you appeared to be a mess?

I do.

I remember the people who never had to say, “I told you so,” because they didn’t tell me so. Instead they said, “I knew you could do it.”

I remember the people who didn’t crush me with their own fears about how I was turning out. They were the people I called when I was afraid. They were the people who just listened and listened and listened until I heard myself telling them about what I was learning. They were the people I didn’t have to worry about disappointing, and they made it safe for me to start working on my own approval.

You can be that person for the people you love by letting go of needing them to be happy.

You can also:

  • Resist the urge to offer help or solutions unless it is specifically asked for.
  • Practice listening with the intent to understand, not fix.
  • Resolve to avoid gossip, because that just fuels your own fears and judgments about what other people are going through.
  • Actively work on your own happiness. Spend your time and attention doing things you love.

Be patient. Believe in the process. Believe in their journey as much as you’ve come to believe in your own.

And remember that you get to be happy no matter what.

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  1. SJ Scott says:

    Britt,

    You are so right. Like the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”

    It is fine to try to help and care about others, but your life is not theirs. Even those closest to you. If you tie your happiness to their making the “right” choices or their happiness, you are due for bitter disappointment.

    All you can do is help them if they need it and as hard as it can be let them sort things out.

    If you wait for perfection for happiness, either in yourself or from those around you that you care about, then you will wait forever and be regretting that you never let yourself be happy on your deathbed.
    SJ Scott’s most recent post: Pedometer Reviews: The Best Choices for Walking Pedometers in 2013

  2. Megan says:

    This one of those things that is so, so key yet so, so hard to do, especially for women (and control freaks).
    Megan’s most recent post: Fifty-Two, Week 46: Stop & Go

  3. Renae says:

    I shared this with a friend in need today, Britt. And I soaked in all the goodness myself as well. Thank you.
    Renae’s most recent post: Summer’s here, and the drive-ins are open.

  4. Nanna says:

    Not easy. Especially not worrying about, say, a spouse’s happiness, when you’ve basically trained them to come to you when they’re miserable. But I’m learning……
    Nanna’s most recent post: Beauty From Ashes

    • Miss Britt says:

      Changing the rules/dynamics of a relationship is always hard. I think a lot of people resist doing it because it might feel unfair – I know I told myself that it wasn’t fair to change the rules late in the game.

      But you know what? People change and relationships between PEOPLE have to change and evolve too.

  5. Sheila says:

    This is one of my biggest problems, except it’s kind of opposite.

    I don’t worry about how I can help someone be happy but I do worry about how I can help fix people’s problems.

    These things seem opposite to me because if someone is unhappy, I don’t necessarily feel responsible for making them happy but I do feel responsible for “fixing” whatever is making them unhappy or giving out unsolicited advice or pressurig people to change negatives in their life.

    I wrote – and then deleted – six paragraphs of examples that involve my sister but I decided that I’d try to stick to the subject (AND, at the same time, stick to my Happiness Mission of not gossiping – go me!).

    In a nut shell though, my sister’s life is a train wreck. It has been for as long as I can remember. I’ve been trying to save her from herself for the last eleven years and I finally decided I’m not going to do that anymore.

    Me trying to “make her happy” and “fix her problems” is only making ME miserable, which makes my family miserable. So I gave up on her. This kills me because I always said I’d never do that. But now, I have to save myself.

    I’m not as good of a person as Jack in Titanic, I guess. I shoved Rose off of that headboard.
    Sheila’s most recent post: Burning Bridges

    • Miss Britt says:

      Sometimes you have to believe people when they show you what they want and who they are.

      And giving up trying to fix someone isn’t the same as stopping loving them. You’re not an ass. I promise. xo

  6. Vicki says:

    This is perfect advise for the parent of a young adult going through some things. I needed this today :-)
    Vicki’s most recent post: Favorite Mysteries

    • Miss Britt says:

      I am trying to practice this with my young teenager, too, but OOOOH boy is that tough!

  7. Jenny B. says:

    I just came across your blog (linked from the Pioneer Woman, of course!) and I love it! What a nice thing to read on a Sunday morning! Powerful stuff. Keep it up and thank you for helping all of us with the simple yet difficult task of just being happy! :-D
    Jenny B.’s most recent post: Colored Ice Cubes

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